Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm in the big pond.

Every summer we face a rite of passage at my farm.  Little ducklings that hatched in the spring are released.  When they are small, I raise them up in a protected pen with netting over the top to keep them safe from hawks and fencing to contain them.  I make it as nice as possible, but nothing compares to the natural life.  Ducks are meant to live in the pond and I have a dandy one for them.  It covers a quarter of an acre with lovely shade around the edges.  It's an established pond full of life.  In fact, the big pond is the perfect place for ducks. 

It isn't easy for them to see it.  Getting them to leave the pen and go down to the big pond usually goes something like this.

Me: (opens gate) Go! Be free!

Ducks: We'll just stay in here.

Me: No, seriously. Go on out guys. It's time. You're all big enough to swim in the big pond now.

Ducks: We like it here. Thanks anyway.

Me: But there's life outside your pen. See? See the water? There's a big pond down there.

Ducks: We have water.

Me: You have a kiddie pool.

Ducks: It's water.

Me: This is a real pond with fish and frogs and aquatic plant life and the thing is huge. It's duckie heaven. You'll love it.

Ducks: No.

Me: (chasing them around, flapping arms) Get out of the pen! Shoo! Go!

Ducks (running in mad circles flapping wings) Do not want! Do not want!

I should be more understanding of the ducks, because I am also resistant to change.  I'm really a social person.  Okay, not really, but I can be.  But social media stuff?  That gives me hives.  I lurk on message boards for years before joining and even after I join, it takes me a while to start posting.

Eventually I get in the swing of things, but I'm a slow adopter.  I don't facebook.  I don't tweet.


Change that last one.  I refuse to Facebook because of their privacy issues, but I decided to dip my toes into the enormous social pond of Twitter.  I've posted a grand total of one tweet.  Exciting, I know.

So I'm margueritwrites there.

Now what?  I have no clue how to navigate and no friends as of yet.  It's like going into a new school with a million new faces looking at you.    Gah!    Friend me?

My first challenge is to figure out how to make the dang thing work.  My second will be to keep it from sucking all my time.  Cause once you get in the pond.  Getting out is hard.  Eventually my ducklings go out and discover how wonderful life in the big pond can be. Then they don't want to get out of the water and go in their nice safe duck house for the night. My evenings become a replay of the above scene, but in reverse.

Me: Get out of the pond and come in the house.

Ducks: But we like it in here.

Me: But it isn't safe at night. You need to come inside.

Ducks: (sitting in middle of pond) Make us.

Me: Do not want!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hatching a Novel: Developing the body

Even a big guy like this starts as a little egg.  This is Hickory, aka PITA.  He's good to his ladies and the primary reason that all my eggs have excellent fertility.  But he annoys the snot out of me.  I guess there isn't a perfect world.  See, I have two roosters for 24 hens.  It's a good ratio and the roosters don't fight.  But I have one who is popular with the hens and one who is popular with people.

Apparently, Hickory is good at what he does best because all the ladies run up to him and squat for him on a regular basis.  There is no pulling of feathers or squawking.  He finds treats for his girls and calls them to partake.  He protects them from hawks and if a fight should break out, he stops it immediately.  He's a good rooster.  Unfortunately, Hickory thinks he should run the barnyard and occasionally I have to kick his feathered butt to make him back off.  I only wear long pants and boots in the chicken runs in case he tries to spur me.  Rotten turd!

Thistle is the opposite.  He has a devoted few ladies, but the rest...well...let's just say he's a sneak attack rooster.  He ambushes them when coming around the corner, or waits for them to bend down and eat, then jumps aboard.  But my son can actually pick him up and carry him around.  One day, Hickory went after my eldest (the Howler Monkey) and Thistle jumped on Hickory to make him stop.  He's my sweetie.

But both of these full grown boys were once just eggs in the incubator.  My eggs are now five days along in the hatching process.  Already they have all the organs needed to survive.  They have little buds which will become beaks, wings, and legs. In another five days, I will be able to confirm which eggs are viable and which are not. 

My novel is developing too.  My characters are becoming real, surprising me.  My hero, who was in danger of becoming too perfect, has gotten rather pissy about being trapped in the Cotswolds following a torrential rain.  Heh.  My heroine has strengths and talents I never knew.  The ending has finally revealed itself, as have twists to the plot.  I can't give you a word count because I've been scratching away in a notebook. 

Yes, my chickens have gone high tech with an automatic turner and self-calibrating incubator, while my writing is unplugged, just an ink pen and a notebook.  Hopefully this weekend I can get it all into the computer and see where I stand.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hatching a Novel: the early days

I've discovered the best way to edit.  Just start a new writing project.  That way, the editing can be your procrastination.  It's almost like you're writing.  Except not.  Genius!  Brilliant!  Thank you!

Sigh. I've finished paper edits for First Ghost and now I'm transferring them to the actual document.  I need to hurry up and finish because I have final edits for Compromising Prudence just sitting there in my email, taunting me.  Not to mention that I should be working on my next Mad Hatterly novel. 

The eggs are developing nicely, thanks for asking.  I did an early candling today.  I like to candle eggs with a super bright, but very small LED light.  The face of the flashlight is roughly the size of a half dollar.  I turn ou the lights and hold the flashlight to the fat end of the egg where the air cell should be.  If the egg is fertile and developing, I can see the air cell and even the start of veining.  A chicken embreyo, like any embreyo is attached by and umbilical cord to the interior of the egg, but first the membrane must develop a support system, just like a uterus.  You can see the act veins running around the egg.

My novel has started developing.  I've taken the rough idea and turned it into an outline.  From there, specific scenes have sprung to mind.  The characters have drafted a supporting cast to flesh out the story.  Subplots have not yet revealed themselves, but the often don't until I'm actually writing.  It's the plot and characters that develop first.  Tonight's goal is to take this outline and write a specific scene into it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hatching a Novel

I have decided that writing a novel is just like hatching an egg. No really. Okay, maybe it's just me, but both are fun things that keep me off the streets. So tonight I set a batch of eggs from my chickens. I also started book two of the Mad Hatterlys.

Mostly the novel is just a premise at this point, but that is all an egg is anyway. It's a promise. It's an idea. Maybe it will develop and maybe it won't. The fertile ones have real potential to create life. For eggs it requires warmth, moisture and a bit of effort. When a mama chicken sits on a nest to brood her eggs, she doesn't really just sit. She moves about, turning the eggs. This keeps the babies inside developing evenly. I'll blog more about that later.

So my incubator is hot, about 100 degrees inside and the automatic turner is filled with eggs, big end up. It does make a difference how you place the egg. Ever notice that there is a pointy end and a fat end to an egg? The fat end is where the air cell goes. This is for at hatching time. First the baby will pip his protective sack and breath air in the air cell as he begins working on the membrane and the outer shell.

But we're a long way away from that. Today is simply the promise of a future.

I sat at my computer and sketched out the idea for the novel. Characters, major plot points, conflict, resolution. I really think this is a fertile idea. I'm going to apply the heat and see what develops. If an egg can become a chicken in just 21 days, can this become a novel in the same amount of time.

Apparently I've lost my mind. I'm going to try and write a novel in the amount of time it takes these eggs to hatch. It's like NaNoWriMo on steroids. I've never been one of those super prolific writers and I've no idea if I can pull it off, but I'm going to try. An egg left out in the cold will never hatch.

So who is hatching with me? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Join me if you like, or just stop back in to point and laugh. I'll try and update my word count every day and keep you informed on the progress of egg to chicken.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Did someone say paperless?

I'm resistant to change. I know, shocking, right? It seems everyone in the world is hipper than I am these days. They listen to bands I've never heard of devices I couldn't possbily work with an owner's manual and pictures. A few years back, my office went paperless. I still can't work half the programs.

I'm not a technophobe. I'm willing to learn. I can navigate my way around the net and eventually I catch on. But I'm trying something new, which is actually something old.

I'm editing on paper.

Yup. Don't call the Green Police, but editing on my computer just wasn't cutting it for this latest project. Finally, I printed the ms and went after it with a highlighter and pen.

I love it.

No distractions. No internet beckoning. I'm totally portable. I find that I'm reading the prose differently. I'm seeing it differently as well. I can lay out the chapters, compare them.

I don't know that I'll always edit books this way, but sometimes it's nice to go unplugged. In this case, stepping away from the computer really broke the logjam for me.

Next I might try writing a novel with pen and paper.

Naw! I'm not that crazy.

Or am I?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just keep swimming

Whew! It really sounded like a good idea at the time. See, I was flush with success following the acceptance by AMP/Aurora Regency, so I just thought I'd send off my paranormal mystery to Lyrical. I liked their books and their authors seemed very happy. They were at their 2 year anniversary and doing well. I'd heard they had a brutal editing process, but that only makes a book stronger.

It didn't matter anyway. They were sure to reject me. Nobody was more stunned to get an acceptance. I was thrilled. I was giddy. Life was good.

Be careful what you ask for. Soon I was filling out two sets of author packets and contracts and cover art forms, etc. Yow!

Then I started panicking a bit about editing. I reminded myself that I have two children in school with sports, 4H, scouts, and a farm to run. I'm the personification of multi-tasking. I can do this.

So yesterday I sent off first edits on Prudence and today I'm working on First Ghost edits. I have until the 22nd, but I want them done this week because I have eggs due to hatch this weekend. Soon I'll have a brooder full of ducklings. Just one more thing to add to my dish.

Cute duckling pics to follow!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Things I Hate About You

You doesn't mean any specific you. I mean it in a general, crankypants sort of you. I'm referring to the you who violates common sense and my own tiny intelligence by perpetrating bad regency tropes. You know who you are.

For starters, I know that romance novels set in regency England get a bad rap. Some of it is deserved. Yes, historical accuracy often gets tossed to the wayside. But not always. Some of us truly strive to makes things as accurate as possible. Really, we do. My editor is a booger on word usage. She'll often bust me if I'm off by just a couple of years. Ouch.

But there are some things that transcend inaccurate words or details. Some trends are just plain bad fiction.

I had an awesome weekend. We went camping and the weather was gorgeous. The kids were reasonably well-behaved. Nothing broke on the camper. But my book.


You ever have one of those books you really wanted to like? This one seemed like something I would enjoy and parts of it, I did like. Other parts made me want to bounce the book off the camper walls.

But I kept reading because I only took the one book with me. I took my laptop and got a huge amount of editing work done on Prudence, but at night I want to read and relax. So I read on.

I now give you without further ado, a list of ten things that made me Madam Crankypants about my book choice.

1. The hero is a spy. And he isn't a very good one. He's impersonating his dead cousin to catch a killer. His plan? He goes around to all the gaming hells and underworld haunts he can find, hoping to provoke the killer into trying to kill him too. So he can bust him. Yep. That's the whole plan. My cat would be a better spy. At least she understands how to hunt things. He's needlessly secretive when it would be better to simply tell the truth about things. But then he wouldn't be a spy. Shhhhhhhhhh! It's a secret.

2. He's the handsomest, biggest, most virile man who ever graced the planet. Chuck Norris is green with envy at his mad skills. Even horses bow to his majesty. Every woman who meets him, wants him. Except our heroine. She hates him on sight. He's tall and wins every card game and bests all opponents. Oh, and he dances divinely as well. Plus he's a good lover. All the trampy women want to sleep with him and the innocent girls want to marry him. He's the most interesting man in the room. He doesn't drink beer very often, but when he does. It's Dos Equis.

3. His chest is covered in black fur. Blech! Not hair. Fur. If the author described it once, it must have been fifty times. Everytime his chest is mentioned (and boy does it get a lot of airtime) we have to hear about how broad it is and how it's covered in a matt of black fur. Do. Not. Want.

4. He's Mr. Wonderful to everyone but the heroine. He loves to tease her by treating her like crap because he likes her so much. Seriously, it was like elementary school where the boy who secretly liked you glued your braids to the chair and threw up on your desk. See, it's fun to make her blush and stammer and humiliate herself. Cause she's cute. :headbang: He treats her like a toy. I hate it. And does he ever apologize? Of course not! He was only funning!

5. The heroine seems to have a brain except for the second he kisses her. At the slightest touch from our hero, she's ready to put out. Seriously, he gets to second base with her during their first kiss even though he's been sweating out a fever for days. Some virgin. It's a good thing this is her first trip to London and she isn't some raving beauty. The girl can't keep her legs together for twenty minutes.

6. The villian is cardboard. He's never on scene unless he's there to menace the heroine. He's been stalking her for something like twelve years. Plus he killed the hero's cousin. He's rich and evil. Why is he evil? Cause he's know? Really bad. Why? He just is, dammit! Accept it and move on. Oh, and he's ugly too.

If you can't say something Nice...

My mama always told me to find the good in things, so here it goes. Everyone had period appropriate names. No girls named Hayley or males named Brad.

It isn't much, but it's a start.

So you don't go away empty-handed, here are some awesome classic links.

Mrs. Giggles Regency Drinking Game
SBTB's Contemporary Drinking Game

BTW: If I was playing along in this novel, they'd be treating me for alcohol poisoning about now.